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By Tommy Werner, Epicurious
Dry-aged beef is a delicious tease. The breakdown of the muscle tissue gives beef a flavor that New York City chef Andrew Carmellini says “wakes up your palate a little bit more.” Dry aging removes moisture from the steak and gives it a funky, umami-rich flavor we’re nutty about. And while you can attempt the technique home, it doesn’t come easy.
Dry-aging requires steady humidity and temperature, which are difficult to maintain in a home refrigerator that’s opened an average 50 times a day. Not to mention that if you’re doing any kind of dry-aging, your refrigerator needs to be spotless—any mold or bad flavors in the refrigerator are going straight for the steak. Takeout-flavored ribeye? No, thank you.
But that doesn’t mean we don’t want the taste of dry-aged steak at home. We spoke to some beef pros who gave us three hacks to mimic a dry-aged steak’s flavor.
POWDER UP YOUR STEAK
Karl Marsh, Executive and Research Chef at Omaha Steaks, loves dry-aged flavor but prefers alternate methods. His beef is wet-aged (keeping beef sealed in the plastic for tenderness) for 21 days, a number tested meticulously by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
To mimic the dry-aged flavor with a wet-aged steak, season your steaks with a porcini mushroom powder. Find dried porcinis or shiitakes at Asian markets or online and buzz them fast in a food processor before adding to your steak seasoning. Marsh also uses hard cheeses like Parmesan in his seasoning blend. “For most people, this is more palatable than a true dry-aged steak,” says Marsh, “It’ll create a crust, which a true dry-aged subprimal has.” If using cheese in your blend, be sure to use a non-stick skillet instead of grilling grate—you don’t want cheese to stick and burn.
MAKE MINE WITH MARINADE
“Dry-aged steak should have big beef flavor but also a funk, which is similar to blue cheese,” says Chef Lawrence Knapp of NYC’s Smith & Wollensky, “If you can smell that, you know you have a good beef in front of you.”
Take a ribeye and cure the meat’s cut side in coarse salt. It’ll draw out the moisture, making your dry-aged-esque marinade go right to work. Knapp also recommends using mushrooms with garum, an Italian fish sauce, for the marinade. Add salt, black pepper, and blue cheese around the fat cut side for additional funk. Wrap everything in plastic and let it sit in the refrigerator the day of cooking. 30 days of aging? Psh. You can get Knapp’s “fifth element burst of umami” in eight hours.
ADD SOMETHING FISHY
At his New York City restaurant The Dutch, Carmellini dry ages his steak for 28-30 days, then"re-ages" the trimmed and portioned beef fat cap facing up. Sound complicated? Carmellini is pretty particular about his beef. “It’s hard for me to go back and eat a steak that’s not aged,” says Carmellini.
That being said, he has a great method for recreating that palate-waking method. “Dry aging forms glutamates, which is kind of a natural MSG,” says Carmellini. His quick tip: a glutamate-heavy paste. Take a quality steak from a butcher you trust, and make a paste of anchovies, herbs, and dehydrated garlic powder. Rub some on a day before grilling and then again the day of.
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PHOTO: HIRSHEIMER & HAMILTON